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Iran remains committed to India pipeline - official
Updated: 2005-12-29 16:00

Iran remains committed to a proposed $7 billion natural gas pipeline running to India via Pakistan, its deputy oil minister said on Thursday.

"We will continue to do our best to implement it," Mohammad Hadi Nejad-Hosseinian told reporters at a news conference.

The pipeline faces opposition from the United States which accuses Iran of seeking nuclear arms, funding anti-Israeli militias and stirring militant attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq.

But Nejad-Hosseinian, speaking after talks with Indian officials in New Delhi, said: "I don't think Pakistan and India will yield to pressure of the United States. This pipeline will bring peace to the region."

India and Iran said in a joint statement at the news conference they were discussing options on price structure for the gas, which would be taken forward at a March meeting between oil ministers of the three countries in Tehran.

"We are going to prepare a draft agreement in March which will include the structure of the project, framework agreement, responsibility of each government and framework of price formula," Nejad-Hosseinian said.

Pakistan and India said this month they hoped to start building the pipeline from Iran by 2007 despite U.S. objections. The proposal has been on the drawing board for years but uneasy relations between the nuclear-armed rivals prevented progress.

The project is expected to be owned and operated by a consortium of Iran's National Iranian Gas Export Co. and National Iranian Oil Co., GAIL (India) Ltd. and Pakistani as well as international energy companies.

An Indian official said on Monday the three countries had agreed to set a four-to-six month target to finalise the tripartite agreement.

Iran also signed a deal with India in June to export 5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) annually for 25 years from the end of 2009.

Nejad-Hosseinian said on Thursday Iran was trying its best to get the LNG deal ratified by the cabinet's council of economy as soon as possible.

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